Last Tuesday, Facebook vice president Nick Clegg announced that Facebook was going to give politicians more leeway than other users in using offensive speech, and their assertions would not be fact-checked. That set Dave Willner over the edge. Two nights later, Willner posted a long explanation—on Facebook, of course—attacking the policy. The 35-year-old tech worker described the social network’s new stance as “foolish, wrong, and a significant betrayal of the original democratizing ideals of Facebook.”
That essay is notable not just for its well-argued points but for who wrote it: Dave Willner is Facebook’s former head of content standards. Over 10 years ago, as part of the team monitoring content on the nascent social network, he took an ad hoc list of no-no’s and helped create a document that is the foundation for the company’s content standards. (Though the current version is longer and more detailed, Willner says Facebook’s hate speech rules haven’t changed that much in the last decade. “What has changed is the willingness of politicians to say things that are clearly racist, sexist, etc.,” he says.) Willner left Facebook in 2013 and heads community policy for Airbnb. His wife Charlotte, who worked with him at Facebook, heads Pinterest’s trust and safety team—making Willner half of online speech moderation’s First Couple.